Many industry players see state and federal government moves toward centralised ICT procurement as a death knell for local hardware suppliers. Larger but fewer contracts, it is argued, suit larger multinationals with deep pockets.
But as departments look to consolidate back-end infrastructure into an amalgamated platform, opportunities are emerging for local companies to provide tailored integration and front-end services.
In the most recent sign of consolidation, the NSW Government has launched an ambitious plan to overhaul disjointed departmental systems and establish a unified ecommerce platform. CIO, Paul Edgecumbe, said the People First initiative would allow it to provide better online community services.
Move to modernise
The consolidation of its back-end systems will involve modernising infrastructure and cross-agency integration. This will result in fewer systems and, ultimately, suppliers. The strategy is set to save the government $565 million over the next four years.
Despite the gloom associated with centralisation, there is hope for those who can find an area of expertise and stick to it. In his recent presentation on People First, Edgecumbe said back-end technologies would be the realm of multinational companies. But he claimed local players would deliver front-line services.
"The front-end niche products have to be highly modified. Those are generally found here [in Australia]," he said.
ASI Solutions director, Maree Lowe, said homegrown suppliers with specialist skills would retain a place in government. One way is to look for opportunities where they can offer supplementary or tailored services. For example, local providers could partner with a larger multinational providing IT hardware to deliver document management or Standard Operating Environment (SOE) requirements. Corporate governance would be another opportunity.
"The secret is to look for innovative nooks. The big deals will be very competitive - and you can expect there won't be much margin in them," she said. "Straight volume commodity deals will go to the multinationals."
Intermedium is a research company focused on government procurement for potential suppliers. Managing director, Judy Hurditch, said the NSW ICT strategic plan was another step in the move to whole-of-government procurement.
What was significant for suppliers was the need for skills to pull off the host of consolidation and front-end portal projects scheduled between now and 2010. Hurditch estimated up to 100 projects would be put out to tender.
"There are new opportunities for project management services. With so many on the go, it's hard to imagine the government could service these from its own resource pool," she said. "There's a need for client management, authentication and security solutions. There are also opportunities for working on the single portal, as well as providing document and records management."